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People generally gasp when I show them pictures of my wedding dress, and then they use words like “gorgeous” or “perfect.” I have to agree with them.
I fell in love with my dress the minute I saw myself belted into it in the mirror at the bridal shop. I had found the dress online over a year before I got engaged, and I kept my eye on it. I tried on five other dresses and saved it for last. It was a no-brainer.
Something that felt like a no-brainer as soon as I got engaged last September? Getting married. I was extremely excited to stand up in front of all my friends and family and tell this spectacular person why I love him.
Then, for about three months after we got engaged, we both became totally disengaged from the relationship. Neither of us seemed very interested in it at all, and any time I brought up wedding planning, I was met with, “Can’t we just be engaged for a while?” I felt annoying. I let it drop.
By December, I was sure we were going to break up. After a few talks between the two of us, we “got back in gear.” We started wedding planning.
For the next several months, I was busy almost constantly with work, my low-residency MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and, of course, wedding planning. I didn’t notice that I stopped talking to most of my friends, that I stopped leaving the apartment much at all, or that I had begun to live on the couch.
By the time I went to Montpelier for summer residency in June, I had been severely depressed for nearly six months and had either truly not noticed or was in deep denial.
And then there was residency. Here were people like me: other writers. Here were people who understood me in a way that I don’t feel understood at home. These were—and are—my people.
Residency is 10 days long; during the day, you go to lectures, readings, and workshops. At night, you hang out with friends on crappy couches and drink and laugh. This was my third residency at VCFA, and it hit me like the other two had been building me to be hit.
When I walked into my first residency, I think I thought I was a writer, but in reality, I was just a girl who wrote. When I got on the plane at Burlington airport to come home from my third residency, I could feel it in my blood: I was a writer. I am a writer. It’s not something I do or a “career path.” It’s who I am.
My fiancé is not a writer.
Being at residency meant being away from wedding planning and my fiancé. It meant thinking. Doubt sprouted in my mind only a couple of days after I got there, and it only intensified when I noticed myself doing things at residency that I didn’t do at home, the most notable of which was being social.
I hadn’t noticed how antisocial I was at home until I started abandoning my dorm every night to hang out with friends. I hadn’t noticed how lacking most of my friendships were until I found myself in long, meaningful conversations with my peers in Vermont.
And I didn’t notice how disconnected I had become from my relationship until I started to look down at my phone and notice that my fiancé had texted several times without me caring to check.
I had to make a conscious effort to call because, in all honesty, I wasn’t missing home. I was happier than I had been in months—maybe happier than I had ever been—thousands of miles from home with people I had only seen for a total of 30 days in my entire life.
Unlike the previous two residencies, I was not excited to get on the plane to come home. I stared out the window at the runway’s concrete as we were taking off as though staring longer would take me out of the plane, and my stomach balled up when I felt us leave the ground.
I wasn’t thinking of the wedding dress or my fiancé or the fact that my wedding was exactly two months away. I was thinking about Dewey Lounge back at VCFA. I thinking of the faces I already missed. By the time I landed back at home, I was in a full-blown panic.
“You don’t seem very excited to see me,” my fiancé said in the car on the way home.
“I’m tired, and I’m sick,” I said. Neither of these were lies. I had stayed up until five in the morning the night before, and I had a sore throat. I didn’t mention the whole “I don’t know if I want to get married anymore” thing, though. I got home, put my duffle bag down, and slept for almost 12 hours.
By the next night, it had become apparent to my fiancé that I wasn’t just tired or sick. “Okay, really, what’s going on?” he asked.
For a few seconds, my brain darted back and forth between “talk it out” and “keep it in.” I sighed and said, “I am just having a hard time being home.”
“What do you mean?”
“I just—I had a really good time,” I said. He stared at me. I started trying to put into words how understood I felt around everyone at school and how I didn’t feel that at home.
Just a couple of minutes in, he asked me if I was having doubts about getting married. When I tried to explain that I was feeling nervous or confused, he immediately became emotional. It was not a very good night.
Over the next several days, we had many talks, and I had many talks about it without him. I talked to my mom about it. I talked to friends from VCFA and from home about it.
Everyone was really supportive, and my fiancé became less emotional and more rational. Even so, I felt no closer to a resolution, and I felt no less confused. In fact, I didn’t feel much about it at all because, as I started to notice, all I could feel was overwhelming anxiety.
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression when I was 18 (I am 22 now), and I was on meds for two years. After I met my fiancé, I came off of the meds, which was, I know now, a mistake.
Less than a week after I got home from Vermont, I made an appointment with my doctor to get back on Celexa, the medication I had been on before. “Is this depression situational, do you think?” my doctor asked me.
“Uh, I don’t know. I am pretty sure I’ve been depressed for months and just now realized it. I do have a wedding coming up in less than two months.”
His white eyebrows raised. “Are you sure that’s a good move?”
He wrote the prescription and told me I should start taking walks every day, which I started doing that night. He also suggested I seek out a counselor, which I am still trying to do.
I take my walks at night and listen to my favorite artist, Taylor Swift. I live in Arkansas, so you can actually see the stars, and I spend a lot of my walk with my eyes pointed upward, looking and looking, searching for I don’t know what. The last few nights, the sky has been moonless. This is something I would never have noticed before.
I have been in constant conversation with a friend of mine from school who is about 10 years older than me and has been married for over a decade. She has continuously talked me through what I call my “guilt complex.”
I truly feel guilty for just about everything in my life. I feel guilty for where I live, for where I go to school. When I started having these thoughts at residency, I reached out to her, and I felt guilty for talking privately to her. She started telling me things that I brushed off at first, things like, “Your mental health has to come first,” and, “What you’re feeling is perfectly natural.”
She and I were talking on the phone about a week and a half after residency ended while I was taking one of my walks. I was telling her about yet another talk my fiancé and I had just had.
“He said ‘We have to be playing for the same team,’” I told her. I paused. “And I told him, ‘I’m on my team.’”
“Good,” she said.
“I am done feeling guilty for being on my own team,” I said. I could feel her smiling through the phone.
Two weeks after graduation, on a Sunday evening, my fiancé sat down on our bed where I was watching "Grey’s Anatomy" and said, “I think we’re going to have to postpone the wedding.”
I was kind of shocked that, only a few seconds later, I heard myself saying, “Yeah, I think so.”
We decided to postpone it for a year. We want to give ourselves time to reassess a few months down the road, to see where my mental health is and to see where our relationship is.
The decision to put my mental health first was not an easy one, and it was not the least embarrassing route to take either. I am currently in the process of notifying every person on my guest list that the wedding has been postponed, and I still need to call the airline to see if I can cancel the tickets for our swoon-worthy honeymoon to the Canary Islands.
No, this choice was not easy, was not one I made in the blink of an eye. But it was right. If I got married on September 6 as planned, it would be a beautiful day. Our wedding would be on a farm, and we would share our first dance to his late-grandparents’ song. It wouldn’t feel right, though.
If I would have said vows in the condition I’m in, I fear they would have felt hollow because, right now, I can’t feel much at all in the way of love.
A couple of times a day, I think about that amazing wedding gown hanging in a closet in the apartment we share. I think about how much I love the way it fits my chest, my waist, my hips.
I want so badly to want to put it on.